“Cali joined our family when she was seven weeks old,” said Misty, a veterinary anesthesia technician at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Since the day we brought her home, she’s been easy-going and happy.”

A typical yellow lab, Cali is kind and gentle. “She loves to snuggle in bed with the kids and beg for food scraps from them,” shared Misty.

Cali also loves her furry sister, Annie, and leisurely days at home.

Over the years, Cali had a series of skin issues that brought her to CSU on several occasions. In 2013, Misty notice a growth on the right side of Cali’s chest. Testing revealed it was a lipoma (a non-cancerous fatty lump). Misty continued to carefully monitor Cali, and two years later, brought her to the Flint Animal Cancer Center after finding two small masses on her chest at the site of the lipoma. This time, the diagnosis was grade II soft tissue sarcoma, a type of cancer. After discussing options with surgeon, Dr. Bernard Seguin, and learning more about the prognosis and likelihood of recurrence and/or metastasis, Misty and family decided to have Cali’s masses surgically removed. She was 10 years old at the time and typically surgery is all that’s required for this less aggressive form of cancer.

“We had a really great experience working with the surgical team at the Flint Animal Cancer Center,” said Misty. “They asked us about our goals and intentions for Cali and explained everything really well.”

Following her surgery, Cali went back to life as usual, although arthritis started to slow her down. Two years later, in August 2017, following a routine examination, Cali’s veterinarian discovered a new mass near the scar from her previous surgery. A biopsy revealed that the mass was another grade II soft tissue sarcoma. Unfortunately, the cancer had returned.

This time, Misty felt it was time to consider options beyond surgery. She learned about a clinical trial for dogs with soft tissue sarcoma and contacted the team at the Flint Animal Cancer Center to ask some questions. Dr. Chris Pinard, clinical trials intern, talked to Misty about a study designed to test the effectiveness of a myxoma virus injection (at the surgical site) and evaluate if the therapy might reduce tumor recurrence.

“After talking to Dr. Pinard, it was an easy decision to enroll Cali in the clinical trial,” said Misty. “The trial was showing promising results, could add time for Cali and explained everything really well.”

As part of the trial protocol, Cali had surgery to remove the sarcoma. Following surgery, Cali received two doses of the myxoma virus, which she handled well.

“Cali is such an amazing patient and has been such a brave dog throughout this entire process,” said Dr. Chris Pinard, clinical trials intern. “Misty and her husband weren’t expecting the cancer to return after two years so that was hard, but Cali is a champ and always comes in smiling and loves to take a treat (or two!) and keeps us laughing.”

Five months after entering the clinical trial, Cali’s doctor discovered a mass in a new location. Cali’s surgeon removed the tumor. Pathology revealed it was a soft tissue sarcoma. Because it was a new tumor, and not a metastatic tumor, Cali was able to continue in the clinical trial.  Despite everything, Cali’s doctors are optimistic that the surgery removed the cancer and Cali will to continue to enjoy her senior years.

“Cali’s a really special girl,” said Misty. “I’m truly grateful for all of the wonderful care she’s received and the extra years we’ve had with our sweet little old lady.”